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Purdah or P.E.P?

Mark Devenport | 09:38 UK time, Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Bit of a fuss yesterday over whether the SDLP's housing announcement broke the so-called "purdah" rules, under which civil servants and government departments try to steer clear of anything party political or agenda grabbing during a campaign period.

The SDLP denies any rule has been broken and further points to the DUP leader's announcement of a breakthrough for PMS savers as a more blatant example of stretching the convention. The Social Development department eventually confirmed the figures already revealed by their minister, Alex Attwood, via an e-mail, but if you visit their website you won't see any official announcement (although they do seem to have been convicting a lot of benefit fraudsters lately there's no sign of any action against purdah fraudsters).

In truth political parties can't break purdah as the rules which you can read here, only apply to civil servants and special advisers.

No doubt the debate about what is or isn't a breach of the rules will continue, but should we be using the term "Purdah" at all? The Stormont guidance doesn't use the term, talking instead about the "formal election period". In Wales four years ago there was a bit of controversy over whether the use of the term "Purdah" might be offensive to Muslims or Hindus. Instead Welsh officials were instructed to refer to the Pre Election Period or P.E.P.

One thing I know. If Purdah requires women to hide themselves away during this pre-election period, then there's one woman (whose surname sounds remarkably similar) who will not hesitate a nanosecond before flouting the convention. Indeed if all goes according to plan she will be usurping my slot on this week's "Hearts and Minds".


  • Comment number 1.

    Looks like the Stoop Down Low Party are stooping to an all new low, disgraceful tactics which I am sure the electorate see through as easily as they see through the SDLP policies.

    Noticed the graph showing the trend only began on devolution, I would like to see the trend pre-devolution and if the initial upwards trend was due a continuing trend or what.

    Also the sour puss face of Margaret Ritchie in the news bite was awful, again I was waiting for a condescending put down from her but alas I was denied - editors must have realised her facial expression was enough. Oh well maybe she is waking up to the reality that the SDLP won't be getting 2,3 or even 4 seats at the executive table as noted in her election broadcast.

    Anyway I'm off to buy an iphone for some reason I recently have had the urge to buy one, don't really know way maybe it's something I saw on the TV.....

  • Comment number 2.

    PEP without a doubt. Purdah is just a bit of jargon which people (including me) use to show off. Purdah is meaningless to most people.

  • Comment number 3.

    There appears to have been a Distribution of Sweeties in Derry [DSD] -and some other places - in March? Will the 'Derry wans' appreciate the gesture?

  • Comment number 4.

    I thought this was about the reporter Martina Purdy-

    was starting to wonder what the s.d.l.p problem was with Purdy-

  • Comment number 5.


    That's old news. What bothers me about that 'gesture', is that the money could have been give to the Altnagelvin cancer care unit. It's not sweeties we need in Derry, it's proper infrastructure. The City of Culture status has so far shown very little prosperity for Derry. To be honest, it will do nothing for this city or region in the long run; a cancer care unit will. That's the difference between those two issues and the SDLP failed to even consider that.

    I'm laughing at EternallyConfustered's post; I actually cringe now when I see Margaret Ritchie. Last Thursday's Hearts and Minds was so unbelievable. Her performance was awful. I have to say though, the debate on UTV on Monday night was funny. Mitchel McLaughlin is a funny boy. We need more like Mitchel in political life. Keep up the good work Mitchel. The transformation has begun!

  • Comment number 6.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 7.

    Eternally Confustered (post 1),

    Well played, sir. Well played.

    Love, PieMan

  • Comment number 8.

    hi Disgusted long time since I have posted. Anyway years ago too long to recall SDLP was anagram according to the then PUP 'six dirty lazy pigs"' anyone else apart from me remember that?
    Bigger issue will reform of the electoral system amount to anything and can we claim we did it!?
    Another question if unemployment in the rest of the UK is falling why is it rising in NI?
    Disgusted how would you counteract this? Are things better in the Republic?

  • Comment number 9.


    Banks in Britain are starting to give money. Companies in Britain are taking advantage of that. In fact, British exports are up quite considerably; these companies cannot sell their products in Britain, so they are selling them in Europe, China, India and Australia. Here in the North we are tied to the failed banking system in the South of Ireland, and they are still refusing to give out money. Even after they have been continually bailed out. It would appear these bailouts are paying the wages and bonuses of failed and greedy bankers, while we the people who are fitting the bill; we are given nothing to expand our businesses. We continue to suffer!

    Let me ask you a question: The Act of Union 1800 was supposed to bring prosperity to all the countries under its banner. Why is it that only England has seen the most of this prosperity (see the question from Stephen in London, near the bottom of the page)? Has the Act of Union 1800 failed the people of Ireland, Scotland and Wales? Is it time Irish unionists admit this and give up the ghost?

  • Comment number 10.

    DiD, we're moving a little bit away from the central theme of the thread - questionable SDLP activity in PEP - but perhaps readers and moderators will tolerate a brief exploration of the related gesture politics.

    I think it's always worthwhile drawing attention to gesture politics. I made the same point as you about the Altnagelvin cancer care unit over on Slugger O'Toole where I included Conor Murphy's 'gesture' prioritising on roads.

    Prosperity does tend to show itself first and mainly around centres of power, influence and trade eg London, Dublin, Belfast and Glasgow.

    Would you subscribe to these John Hume snippets from his book "Personal Views"? For distant visitors to this site Hume is a former leader of the SDLP.

    "p130 ... we do not expect the centre to solve our problems . we expect it to make it possible for us to resolve them ourselves . we are polygamists. rather than put all our hopes in the belfast or london baskets, we look for opportunities and partnerships with an entire harem of centres

    p131 ... in a polycentric world, promiscuity is an advantage"

  • Comment number 11.


    So I take it you agree that the Act of Union 1800, has since its introduction failed the people of Ireland. You do accept that we cannot rely on 'The Mother Parliament' to give us our fair share of the cake; therefore we must go it alone in order to find that prosperity. You will agree then that we must have a break from the union if our island is to prosper in the future? The British governmental system has failed us: It's time for a new approach; an all Ireland approach which has never been tried and tested!

  • Comment number 12.


    "Prosperity does tend to show itself first and mainly around centres of power, influence and trade eg London, Dublin, Belfast and Glasgow"

    Unemployment Belfast North: 11%

    Unemployment Belfast South: 6.5%

    Unemployment Belfast East: 6.5%

    Unemployment Belfast West: 12.9%

    Unemployment S'Ireland: 13.5%

    Unemployment Glasgow Central: 7.8%

    Unemployment Glasgow East: 11.6%

    Unemployment Glasgow NW: 9.3%

    Unemployment Glasgow SW: 10.7%

    Unemployment Glasgow South: 7.2%

    Unemployment London: 4.1%

    While what you say is correct for the end of the 19th century, it is now the 21st century and that old tale of big cities prospering from the union is exactly that: a tale. In fact Dublin's decline while it was in the union was highlighted in 1911 when the population of Belfast overtook the population of Dublin. It was an argument that, if Ireland as a whole broke from the union instead of partition, the shipyards in Belfast would decline. They did decline in any case, without a break from the union, and only seen a small increase in production during WWII. So let's not kid ourselves. We do not gain from being part of the union, so let's try something different!

  • Comment number 13.

    I think it's too early to say, DiD :L If you look at NALIL blog you'll see that our politicians and senior bureaucrats would happily scoff the whole cake :L

    Belfast and Glasgow prospered under the Union; Dublin prospered later under independence - before selling its soul to the EU and the USA. Perhaps Derry, like Hume hinted, should have a go at baking its own cake. As you might say, sweeties are not enough; they might leave you without teeth :L

  • Comment number 14.


    You sat that "Belfast and Glasgow prospered under the Union". I note this statement is in the past tense. They do not prosper any more. The Union does nothing for any person who lives outside the South of England. They indeed do scoff the entire cake, and the rest of us squabble for the crumbs. if the cake was passed about, it would benefit people from all over these islands.

    As for Derry baking its own cake: Unfortunately we are represented at Westminster by the SDLP. A party who have continued to fail the people of Foyle. In recent years, perhaps the last decade, this city has seen some investment. This is due to Martin McGuinness and Sinn Fein. It is unfortunate however, that this investment has come from other governments, in 'partnership' with the British government. To get a runway extension at City of Derry Airport, the council had to gain 50% funding from the Irish government. To have our road network upgraged around the city, and to the city from Dublin, the council had to gain 50% funding from the Irish government.

    Could you imagine the British government asking the French for 50% funding of the Olympics, all because some of those who will attend will travel through France and onto the Channel Tunnel?

    Derry will bake its own cake, but what we need is the recipe and the ingredients, and the British government are duty bound to provide this. They however refuse to do so. So much for we are all in it together!

    End the union; end the depression!

  • Comment number 15.

    Just read that Maggie WON'T be wearing an Easter Lilly, but wore a Poppy? Margaret Ritchie and the rest of the SDLP you should hang your head in absolute shame to call yourselves a Nationalist Party. You are quite clearly living up to being the only post nationalist unionist party in NI, a unionist in nationalists clothing.

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    DiD, I'll rephrase by earlier response. I'm not privy to all London and Dublin 'side-deals'; there's a tendency for both to hide behind some secrecy clause or other when I ask impertinent questions. My cake reference was aimed mainly at Belfast but it applies to London and Dublin too. I would be surprised if even a Derry cup-cake was shared on an equitable basis.

    Why do you suppose Sinn Fein 'control' of Derry and Foyle would be much different from that of the SDLP? I've looked at the role of a SF minister and his associates during the course of the NI Water fiasco. I should imagine that the majority of parties will indulge in gesture politics to further their own or their leader's interests - before, during and after elections. They seem to have this white elephant fetish.

  • Comment number 18.


    Nice wee story there but you seem to have muddied the waters some what! Just because the Belfast Media group has deep rooted links within the republican community in Belfast, doesn't give you the right to say that any of their initiatives are "a project which has such close links to Sinn Fein". I wonder would I read anywhere on your blog about any other ministers? I remember one recently who claimed that creationism should be taught in our schools. This minister tells us that science and all its research is wrong, and that a book which was written by an unknown is how it really happened. This little book has been translated to mean different things, and some right wing preachers translate it giving a meaning that contradicts its own commandments. The same minister is a big proponent of a group, whose so-called language was once described as being 'English mixed with Buckfast'.

    The same minister spent £20,000 on something that is not needed; Cancer patients in the North West of this Province could have used it on something that might actually save people's lives!

  • Comment number 19.

    DiD, if you look more closely you'll see that Belfast Harbour requested an 'apolitical solution'. They were quite aware of the organiser's and his group's association with Sinn Fein; they wouldn't have spelt it out otherwise. He's a former SF councillor and he's a candidate once again for the same party.

  • Comment number 20.

    9. At 11:03am 14th Apr 2011, DisgustedinDERRY wrote:


    Once again you appear to be able to add one and one and come up with minus three!

    If you bothered the research the facts rather than just listen to and read local press you would see that yes the UK's exports are doing well but so are those of the South. In fact it is they that are keeping things going for them.

    As far as the bank bail out, it is what they should and need to do, for they took the money very quickly and jumped on the band wagon during the boom times and now it is time to pay the piper as they say. However many are calling for the bond holders to be burnt, in other words default on their bonds. This however is not an option for if they do this the cost of further finance will go through the roof if they can get any of the big institutions to return. Why do they need the money, well that is an easy one, during the boom times they went mad and threw money around like confetti. This was at all levels you just have to look how much they paid their TC, more than the President of the USA. Then we have those at the bottom who were so well off on the brew that they refused to take jobs, jobs they would now die for.
    The South is in a bad way and it will take them at least two decades to recover. The Celtic Tiger myth has finally exploded, and it has been shown that it was built on EU grants and hand outs, a property bubble and a credit (debt) feeding frenzy.

    The South now has the largest personal debt in the world, it's always good to be first in something. A report about the banks and their stress testing has said the worse is yet to come with house repossessions not due to peak until 2016 at the earliest.

    So why has NI now just woken up to the recession, well there are a number of reasons, firstly we had a cross border boom post 2007 which shielded us somewhat. Then there is the fact that we have such a large public sector workforce and with our assembly typically burying their heads in the sand nothing has been done to change this. Finally we had thought that this was just a blip, banks, developers and politicans alike were living in cloud cuckoo. They are now having to face up to how bad things are. It worries me that even as recently as the beginning of this week local groups were saying that housing prices are on the rise. This is in total opposi

  • Comment number 21.


    I do believe that you are attempting to put words in my mouth. I answered a question posed by another contributor. It seems that lately you only post on the Devenport Diaries, when you are attacking the South of Ireland or myself. I always wonder why it is that you copy and paste your posts? Is someone sending you responses by email?


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